The first thing I noticed when going through my photos for the orange challenge is that I take a lot of sunset pictures! I made a point to mix it up and narrowed it down to twelve shots, then checked out how they looked together and settled on six. Then I realized I’d forgotten to upload one, and couldn’t bear to leave it out, bringing the gallery up to seven.
I’m fascinated by the interplay of sunlight and clouds, particularly oddly-shaped clouds and optical effects like haloes and sundogs. The trick with photographing them is that you have to take the picture now. You can’t run and get another camera and come back. You can’t wait until you reach your destination even if it’s only 5-10 minutes away.
Lighting conditions will change. A halo might get stronger, or it might vanish entirely. A cloud that looks like a flaming dragon or phoenix right now will be a dull gray in a few minutes. Patterns of rays will fade from view. I’ve missed my chance a lot of times by being stuck on the road, unable to find a suitable place to stop until the moment had passed.
This last shot is a circumhorizon arc formed by ice crystals. It always appears parallel to the horizon, like a flattened out rainbow, and if the crystals cover enough of the sky it will actually form a circle all the way around the sky. I spotted it while walking back to work from lunch and only had my phone with me — and I actually ran the rest of the way to the office so I could get my camera. I was lucky, since these really don’t appear very often.
I was on the top of a parking structure near LAX to take pictures of the clouds, and was just about to head down when I saw a fragment of the primary rainbow appear. I decided to stick around and keep watching, and was rewarded when it brightened and lengthened, and then a faint secondary bow (just to the right of the airplane) came into view.
Well, technically, it’s Old Town Irvine during a lull in a storm last December. The clouds were moving very fast, with light and shadow moving over the empty fields and office parks, and I waited several minutes for the sun to play over this scene.
I particularly liked the contrast of the dead brown tumbleweeds scattered around the bright green meadow.
My one regret with this photo is not being able to capture the steep drop-off into a wash right below the frame. I could get the wash, or the sky, but not both.
An amazing circumhorizon arc that I saw last May. I had just crossed the street while walking to lunch when I looked up, saw it…and walked back to the office to get my camera!
It started out as just a couple of small segments, but as the clouds drifted into position it quickly grew, and at its strongest it was just long enough to fill the field of view on my camera. There were also a couple of fragments of a 22° circular halo visible at the time.
It looks like a sort of straightened-out rainbow, but it’s actually caused by ice crystals. If the right type of crystals cover the entire sky, this will actually stretch in a circle all the way around the sky, parallel to the horizon.
At times like this, I really wish I had a DSLR, but the point-and-shoot will do in a pinch.
Location: Irvine, California. May 14, 2010, 1:30pm
One night last October, I stepped out of the office building and felt like I’d stepped into a Maxfield Parrish painting. The whole sky looked like this. (Or at least the half that was visible.) It literally stopped me in my tracks.
I spent the next 15 minutes walking around the parking lot, watching the lighting on the clouds change as the sun set and taking pictures.
Here’s a flashback to another Friday the 13th, three years ago. That evening, my wife and I went to the nearest Borders to pick up The End of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events and Neil Gaiman’s new short story collection, Fragile Things. We ended up crossing the bridge over to the main section of the mall, turned around, and saw an amazing twilight display with clouds silhouetted against the blue.
We stopped to take pictures. We weren’t the only ones.